As the world returns to some form of normality, the shape of selling has fundamentally changed compared to pre-pandemic times. While this brings many opportunities, it also presents new challenges that salespeople need to account for.
Here are four of the main challenges facing salespeople this year, with some expert advice from HubSpot on how to address them.
1. Building trust in a virtual environment
Moving away from face-to-face, in-person interactions has been a game-changer in the sales industry. However, salespeople need to adapt their techniques and strategy to build credibility and trust in a virtual environment. That’s more difficult with a natural virtual barrier between the prospect and the salesperson.
Hubspot’s Strategic Channel Account Manager, Chris Moore, says: “2022 is going to be a different year for salespeople as the sales landscape has changed so much. Before this year, sales reps could go onsite to build trust and demonstrate why their product was superior to their competition, and they’re no longer able to do that. Most companies I am working with are still not going into the office, so they have to figure out a way to build this trust virtually.
“The salesperson that can leverage technology in a way to personalize that messaging virtually will win in 2022. Because there are so many salespeople reaching out via email and phone calls now as opposed to meeting with people in person, you have to figure out clever ways to get into these businesses with a personalized approach.”
2. Getting in front of the right people
Similarly to the above, the transition to a virtual selling environment can make connecting with decision-makers more difficult. This is especially important as it’s now easier for the competition to send out mass emails and LinkedIn connections, so the space for networking digitally is already swamped.
HubSpot’s Sales Manager, Jayme Manos, says: “The ability to get in front of decision-makers is getting increasingly challenging — especially with the continued high percentage of leaders and executives working from home. Getting a time commitment to meet means there needs to be perceived value very early in the process.
“I believe that non-personalized sales email blasts will become even less effective. Reps will need to ensure they’ve not just researched an account, but that they come with a strong ‘point of view’ and a very clear call to action, regardless of medium.”
3. Adapting to uncertain times in a post-pandemic world
Uncertain times almost always results in uncertain results. Some salespeople thrive on the change and find that uncertainty is something that motivates them. Others find uncertainty creeps into their own performance. With businesses changing at pace, Sales must change to, and salespeople need to be agile enough to adapt to it.
HubSpot’s Senior Growth Specialist, Sarina Kowaguchi, says: “The transition to the new post-COVID world is a challenge I foresee being top of mind for many salespeople in 2022.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen many businesses go remote and suspend in-person meetings, resulting in new office culture dynamics fostered over communication tools like Slack and Zoom. We’ve also seen shifts in marketing and sales strategies with the implementation of new digital marketing and outreach tools.
“Going forward, we’re likely going to see businesses re-evaluating business protocols surrounding remote work and revisiting their lead generation and customer acquisition strategies.
“A question many businesses may have surrounding the latter could be, ‘Should we continue with our remote sales and marketing efforts or go back to in-person meetings? What about trade shows or conferences? Moving forward, which strategy may be more lucrative for us as a business?’
“Depending on which direction their company decides to go in, salespeople may be facing more permanent changes in remote policies — changing the way they work with their managers and co-workers. And if their companies decide to continue with (or transition to) remote sales efforts going forward, they may see changes in sales processes to align with these new efforts.
“On top of that, they might have to deal with the implementation of new technology to foster remote sales, marketing, and services coordination. I believe flexibility and willingness to change will be key attributes in the coming year — as it was in the past year as well.”
4. Maintaining productivity
Most businesses needed to transition to a remote selling environment during the pandemic, but that model might result in a lack of productivity, with efficiency problems exaggerated by a change in prospects’ buying habits. According to HubSpot’s Sales Enablement Report, sales organisations that have transitioned to a more remote sales model are more likely to struggle with efficiency and cohesion.
The report says: “Sales organizations have been forced to operate remotely. Reps need to become more creative as buying habits have changed, managers are being asked to find new ways to improve seller productivity, and leaders are being asked to drive growth through uncertainty.”
So, while a degree of normality resumes, 2022 is still going to be a year with challenges. But none are insurmountable. Salespeople must recognise the need to be agile in their approach to handle the challenges of the new sales landscape, this year and beyond.